Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Christifying our minds
Jonal entry 995 | Wednesday, June 21 2006
The topic subparagaph above by the Apostle Paul is one of many such declarations in the New Testament concerning what it means to renew our minds according to the mind of Christ. When they read this, I'm sure many drift into an ethereal realm in which there is soft music in the background, thoughts turn angelic or heavenly, and the scent of incense may seem to be just beyond their immediate space. "Jon's getting into religion, again," they may think.
That's exactly the opposite of what it ought to do, however, as passages like these are directed to real life, not ethereal or surreal life, conveying the sense that to be a Christian in the real world is to be a person of a kind different from the norm. It is to have a wholly renewed set of priorities or values for interacting with your generation; a wholly "Christified" set of criteria on which to render judgments about everything ranging from air pollution to how much materialism to allow in their lives. And by "judgments" here I'm not talking about condemning or condoning, but merely "judging" in the sense that any thing is important or trivial, whether it's worth our attention or would be a vain distraction, whether it would lift us up or press us down.
Every flash of thought in our minds goes though filters of this kind, and so they must. While you're driving, you may have to consider whether it's more prudent to keep your eye on the bumper in front of you or pick out another CD to put into the player or press another radio button preset.
Casting down arguments and every high thing
Using "filters" is a good way to approach this matter of developing or strengthening your Christified mind. One of the most memorable proverbs my main seminary theology professor used repeatedly, and I have repeated many times since hearing it from him, is "open minds, like open windows, need screens to keep the bugs out." I have an acquaintance who typically would jump from this statement to thinking that I'm writing against open mindedness. Not at all; I am (and I think the Christian religion as well is) all for having open minds in the sense of being able to let breezes of new thought, questions, and information flow through. We are encouraged to discuss "religion" with our Muslim neighbors, for example, unlike the reverse situation in which there is a long tradition of forbidding the lay Muslims of engaging in such conversations (though they still happen). (See the Thought for the Day in the right column.) But just as in nature, so in the world of intellectual inquiry, screens or filters are needed to keep the air relatively unpolluted.
The "filters" of Christian mindedness are such things as the moral law (the Ten Commandments and their interpretations in the Judeo-Christian historical tradition, as affirmed and even strengthened in Christ's Sermon on the Mount), the religious certitude and psychic security in knowing Christ is the Truththe Logosof God and as such is able to save you from all your insecurities, and your hope that there's a better world in your future.
Second in importance to putting in the right filters is recognizing and starting to clean out the already existing pollution in our minds. Biblical teaching consistently emphasizes that the sin of our first parents has polluted all of us. We are born into a polluted world, take our first breaths of polluted air, and have minds that, metaphorically, look darker than a smoker's lungs before we get to middle school. We've fallen into bad habits, the worst of which are un-Christified habits of thought. We think what our peers is funny is funny; we laugh at profanity and may use some of our own; we enjoy images in the media that saturate our world that are less than edifying but are rather intended to turn-on our lusts. The world of the "flesh," to use Paul's metaphor from above, has made us think things are beautiful because of their trappings, but at heart they may be foul, a situation that Jesus referred to metaphorically as "whited sepulchers," nice-looking monuments that are full of rotting dead bodies.
Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ
For a personal example, I was shocked in my youth to realize that one of the movies that I had greatly appreciated and admired and shared with my fiancee, Camelot, was actually, in the way it works its story out, glorifing adultery in the name of romance and emotional infatuation.
So one of the filters that I should have had in place was, "is adultery good in a Christian worldview? No." The renewal of our minds required of Christians must put every question through such filtering. We must have those "nos" in place so that when we encounter a paean to adultery, a flag should go up, regardless of how beautifully framed the movie may have been or how persuasively the story may have presented the dalliance of Lancelot and Guenevere as justifiable as "true love" in contrast to the (presumably) inferior loveand marriagebetween Guenevere and Arthur.
If your thoughts aren't "Christian," can you say your soul is?